What's wrong with watching pornography? Is it possible to watch porn without lusting?

Questions about porn addiction and masturbation are two of our top most submitted questions at 412teens. If you haven't read our article on why lust is a sin (Matthew 5:28; 1 John 2:16), then now might be a good time to do that: What does the Bible say about lust?

Pornography of all kinds is rampant on the internet and so easy to access, which makes it seem like watching porn should be no big deal. Maybe it seems like everyone you know watches it, therefore it feels totally normal. Maybe you believe you can watch it for pure entertainment reasons without lusting after anyone. But let's be honest with ourselves, okay? The whole point of porn is to elicit lustful emotions, thoughts, and actions. There is literally no other point. If you're telling yourself that there's a good storyline in there, you're lying to yourself.

While watching porn may seem like it's not a big deal because it's a mainstream thing to do, for the Christ-follower, watching porn is a HUGE deal. Viewing or reading porn and erotic fiction has no other purpose than to stir up sexual urges and incite lustful, selfish activity, such as self-serving sex and masturbation. It's impossible to willingly view porn and NOT have the result lead you down a lustful path. Even if the viewer tries not to lust after a person in the picture/video/book, they're still indulging in desires that go against God's will for us to be holy (1 Peter 1:14-16).

Willing Exposure to Porn is a Sin

Sorry, there are no exceptions, no times when it's OK, no circumstances when willingly viewing or reading pornography is acceptable for a Christian. Exposing yourself to pornographic material is a sin because it is a willful invitation for lust to take over your mind and body. Just to clarify though, we are talking about WILLFUL exposure to porn. If a pornographic image pops up while you're innocently doing research for school, for example, you haven't sinned just by seeing and recognizing porn. However, you MUST move on, don't click on it or dwell upon that road; at that point, you will have sinned by giving in to sexual temptation.

As Christ followers, we have a responsibility to guard our hearts against the things that will damage our relationship with God (Proverbs 4:23), such as lustful thoughts. James 1:14-15 reminds us that it's our own sinful nature that draws us toward temptations: "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."

We can be our own worst enemies when it comes to talking ourselves into sin (Jeremiah 17:9; Hebrews 3:13), but Satan is eager to jump on the bandwagon and push you over the line (1 Peter 5:8). You may tell yourself, "I want this," but God says, "No, it’s not good for you." That's when Satan comes close and whispers in your ear, "Maybe we can work out a compromise," and before you know it, you're knee deep in the muck and flailing.

Watching porn makes your faith journey more complicated.

Please don't be misled that a person can willingly watch porn for educational or entertainment purposes and NOT feel lustful emotions or become sexually aroused. Even if someone viewed porn and was merely disgusted at the time, those images will forever be locked in the mind, haunting them, available for conjuring later. Porn is one of those things that, once seen, is hard to un-see. Why plant these stumbling blocks on your path of faith? Following Christ can be hard enough in such a sexually-charged world; why self-sabotage yourself?

When we want a thing that God has forbidden, sexual or not, we have lusted after the thing. Jesus equated lust in the heart with actual adultery (Matthew 5:27-28). God designed sex as a beautiful union between a husband and wife (Song of Solomon 5:1), and there are severe consequences for those who disrespect that holy union (Hebrews 13:4).

If you're unmarried, think of watching porn as cheating on God in lustful idolatry (Colossians 3:5) or cheating on your future spouse. That is serious business! No one has the right to look at the nakedness of another person (or to look upon a clothed person) and sexually fantasize about them—unless he or she is married to that person.

In order to fight the battle against all the world's temptations, we need some heavy-duty armor. Thankfully, God has supplied us with everything we need (Ephesians 6:10-18). Not to mention that He has promised to provide an escape route from temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13). When you feel tempted, it is up to YOU to immediately look for that escape route and TAKE IT.

You don't HAVE to give in to that curiosity or desire to watch, view, or read porn. You are NOT a slave to your sin; Jesus Christ has freed you from that (Romans 6:6-7). When Joseph was confronted with sexual offers from another man's wife, he literally ran away from her (Genesis 39:12). Job committed to sexual purity by refusing to look lustfully at young women (Job 31:1). Romans 13:14 tells us, "Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh." There is no reason to dwell upon that which is going to harm us (Philippians 4:8).

The Ones About Sex

Porn has no other purpose than to incite sexual urges and lustful, selfish activity, such as self-serving sex and masturbation. Christians have a responsibility to guard their hearts against the things that will damage their relationship with God (Proverbs 4:23), such as lustful thoughts (Matthew 5:27-28). There are no exceptions or circumstances when willingly viewing or reading pornography is acceptable for a Christian (James 1:14-15). Willful exposure to pornography is a sin because it invites lust to take over your mind and body (Romans 13:14), disregarding God's will for us to be holy (1 Peter 1:14-16).

Writer/Editor: Catiana (Cat)

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She is known as "412teens" on the 412teens Discord. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not cooking, gardening, or practicing creativity, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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